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Ride report: ALC12 Distance Training #2 (1/12/2013)

Go, riders!

Even though temperatures mostly stayed above freezing last night, it was certainly plenty cold when our group of 35 intrepid cyclists met this morning in Mountain View. But under a bright sun, today's 45-mile ride was surprisingly pleasant, if not just a bit warm-ish in places. And while we still did plenty of climbing, most of it was without the super-nastiness of last week. Special thanks also go to today's super SAG driver Janet, and our super bonus last-minute SAG driver Dan.

Riding in the cold is, I think, an acquired taste, one that seems less painful after you've become acclimated to it. In my case, I did a lot of riding over the holidays where my day began with temperatures in the 30s or lower 40s, so today didn't really feel all that bad to me. I know that at least a few of you felt otherwise, but I also suspect that if you ride tomorrow morning when it's expected to be just as cold, it might not seem quite as bad the second time around. And keep in mind that, while the event in June almost never sees morning temperatures in the 30s, ride-out temps in the 40s are somewhat common. And while the past few rides have been unusually cool, temperatures in June often exceed 90 degrees, so packing and dressing for all types of weather is very important.

And once we started climbing those hills, we got warm in a hurry. Shannon and Kennedy are both fairly technical climbs and descents, and today's riders wisely took them at whatever speeds felt right. Particularly on a descent that's new to you, it's important to ride within your abilities so that you can respond to quickly changing conditions -- gravel, potholes, mud, wet pavement, and so on. There is absolutely no shame in descending carefully, and there's no prize for getting to the bottom of the hill 15 seconds before everyone else.

In June, many of our major descents are under open-road conditions where most of us will naturally go faster. But even then, take the hills at your own pace (and keep to the right so others can safely pass you).

In the middle of all that climbing, how about that right turn from Shannon onto Kennedy? Steep but mercifully short-lived. Event veterans might recall that there's a very similar turn near the end of Day 4 in recent years, when we make a hard right turn from Los Berros Road onto El Campo Road, where you can't see a steep climb until you're already on it.

But also with unfamiliar territory comes the possibility of missing a turn. That happened today when one rider missed the turn onto Kennedy, continued downhill, turned around and climbed back up, but then missed the turn again and, as a result, climbed Shannon again in the other (much harder) direction! It was quite the hill workout, but I remind you that if you get lost, please don't feel obligated to ride bonus miles. Call a ride leader or SAG driver for directions, and if a SAG driver is available, we usually can find you and get you back on the route.

When we got to Rest Stop 2, notice that I put Togo's at the front of the list ahead of Starbucks this time. That's because our rides are now long enough that it's important to properly eat. Everyone's numbers are different, but Strava tells me that I burned 1,733 calories on today's ride. (Some other tools give higher numbers -- for me, as high as 2,524 calories for this ride.) Most of us can't and shouldn't try to replenish all of those calories while still riding, but even those of us who are trying to lose weight have to take back most of those calories, or else we won't have the necessary energy to keep riding today or on the next day.

One thing that I saw today (and I've seen on other rides, too) can spark an interesting discussion. When making a left turn where there's a left turn lane, do you wait behind other vehicles in the lane, or do you split the lane and pull up alongside the first vehicle waiting to turn? As you've no doubt observed, opinions differ! My own answer is that, when I'm riding by myself, I "usually" wait in line with the other vehicles. My exception is mainly when I know that there's a bike lane on the street into which I'm turning, so that I know I won't be holding up other vehicles. From 2011, here's a lengthy discussion in which several points of view are represented.

When riding in a group, though, the situation can be different. If a large group of cyclists makes it way through stopped traffic to the head of an intersection, it can be perceived as an intimidating "pack" that could spark anger or resentment. And remember that in June, we have to do everything we can to avoid jeopardizing our 50-plus permits that we need in order to ride to Los Angeles. Even though it might be legal to split the lane, it might also be more sensible to wait our turn, even if it takes us an extra cycle to get through the signal.

As far as I know, ALC has no official rule on this, so the choice is yours. But especially when I'm wearing the ALC colors and representing SFAF and LAGLC, I try to err on the side of avoiding confrontation, no matter who's "right."

What's next? Remember that our next ride is in two weeks, on Saturday, January 26. And for a pleasant change, it's a comparatively easy ride: 50 miles, but very few hills. We'll cross the Dumbarton Bridge and pass through Newark and Fremont on our way to Ohlone College and the historic Mission San Jose. Then we'll ride some of the Coyote Creek Trail and take a short detour into otherworldly Alviso on our way back to Mountain View. Find out more and RSVP here.

In the meantime, I encourage you to use next Saturday to ride with one of the other groups in the area. Get out there, and see some more of the great cycling that's available in the Bay Area, even when it's chilly.

Thank you for riding today, and thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.